Mother withdraws application to appeal supervision order granted following school referral – 2023vol2#1

A mother withdrew her application to appeal a supervision order which had been granted when the Child and Family Agency (CFA) received a referral from her son’s school. The school had been concerned about the mother’s presentation when issues arose about getting documents from the school. The parents were both present in court without legal representation.

The Dublin District Court was told the mother had failed to appeal the supervision order within the relevant 14-day period, and was now seeking to extend time to appeal it. The CFA solicitor said the mother’s application was ultimately a matter for the discretion of the court, but the relevant test was whether there was a bona fide intention to appeal within the allowable timeframe, and whether an arguable ground existed for the appeal. The solicitor said the mother had not indicated why she did not appeal within the timeframe, and had not provided any reasoning as to why she waited almost three months to do so.

Asked whether she intended on getting legal representation in order to advance her application, the mother said she had applied for legal aid but had not reached the threshold. She said “to make it simple” she was going to proceed as a lay litigant.

The mother told the court she was waiting to get a copy of the supervision order before issuing her appeal, but that it was slow coming to her. She was also focused on getting her son to attend court to speak to the judge as “he was telling me he wanted the judge to hear his part of the story.” She noted her son had in fact met with the judge a month earlier, so this was why there was a delay in issuing the appeal.

She went on to say that she had consistently tried to engage with the school about various documents and school reports for her son that she needed for his application to secondary school. However, the school was not assisting her because of her “prior form.” She said: “When someone crosses me regarding my child, I come all guns blazing. I am willing to rub people up the wrong way.”

She told the court that “out of desperation” she had to ask the social worker if he could help, and she also contacted the CFA as she was “getting nowhere” with the school.

The judge said he was inclined to grant the mother’s application to extend time to appeal the order, but asked, “is the supervision order actually doing any harm to [the boy]?” In response, the mother said he was “hating it.”

Judge: “But my understanding from the last day was that he was welcoming the social work involvement?”

Mother: “That was because he liked the social worker, but then he got Covid and this one isn’t working out.”

The judge said he was afraid that all of the mother’s energy would go into the appeal rather than her son, which would get her nowhere as the supervision order would have extinguished by the time her appeal was heard. He also cautioned that it would not prevent the CFA in bringing any further applications regarding her son’s care.

The mother said the most important thing in the world to her was doing the best for her child, and she had been very put out by the school taking exception to how she presented when she realised her son had been falling behind on maths. She said the supervision order had put a “stain” on her.

The CFA solicitor suggested there could be some common ground reached as to the way forward prior to the expiry of the supervision order. If the social work team were able to progress matters and provide assistance to the family, the hope was that they would be able to “look at the situation differently.” However, if the parents did not avail of the resources offered to them, the CFA would have to consider a further supervision order.

The judge said the objective of the CFA was primarily to support reunification and support families. He told the parents that if they communicated and engaged with the CFA, this would facilitate progression. He asked if the mother was insisting on her application in light of everything that had been said. The mother stated she would withdraw the appeal in the circumstances.

The judge said he was “glad to see the spirit of co-operation” and noted the withdrawal of the mother’s application. On the suggestion of the CFA solicitor, the case was listed for mention prior to the expiry of the supervision order in the hope that there would be “good news” on that date.